Investments: How To Spot Online Scams And Protect Yourself

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This week it’s Amazon Web Workers “investors” and there have been many before them who have lost significant sums of money to these online scams. Amazon Web Workers was a scam that promised people the opportunity to make money in return for carrying out small tasks online and through bringing in more people.

Amazon Web Workers scam

Users downloaded the Amazon Web Workers app on Google play and were paid for referring others to the platform. Promises were also made that they could earn between KES 2500-5000 every day by “helping Amazon merchants complete e-commerce orders ordering tasks through your mobile phone”. It had levels and people invested different amounts for different levels and got weekly cash payouts. Money was earned through both completing tasks and referring others. The app promised returns of up to 38% within seven days. Thousands of Kenyans it turns out downloaded the app, created accounts and referred their families and friends and began to receive weekly payments. Now all the social media pages of Amazon Web Workers have been pulled down as well as the website. The app can no longer be found on the app store and all their communication channels are offline. As things stand, heartbroken, devastated Kenyan “investors” have no idea how to proceed to recover their money and that of their friends and family.

Online, the reactions from people who had nothing to do with the scam and were unaffected range from mild amusement to “you should have known better”. This sentiment suggesting that people who get duped had it coming because they were chasing easy money is common. However, it’s important not to mention kind to remember that we are living through a pandemic that has led to the loss of income and increased financial precarity for many people. These con artists deliberately preyed on people at the worst possible moment not just locally but globally. How can you protect yourself from these scams?

Here are some indicators that an ‘opportunity’ is a scam or a Ponzi/pyramid scheme:
  1. Participants make money by recruiting people. The more the recruits the higher the earnings.
  2. The promise of extraordinarily high returns on investment with no risk involved. High returns guaranteed regardless of local or global economic factors should be a red flag.
  3. Participants are pressured to join right now because the opportunity may close or because the earlier you join the higher the returns. There is this sense of emergency to it.
  4. The institution or scheme is not registered or the scheme’s ownership is not clear. In this case, even though the scam was named Amazon Web Workers, it had nothing to do with Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.
  5. You are bombarded by testimonials of people who have made a lot of money in a short period of time. Testimonials that feature people constantly on holiday or surrounded by the usual trappings of wealth including huge mansions and luxury cars.

Pyramid schemes that profit from an endless stream of new recruits like Amazon Web Workers are the most common type of scam. Others include online jobs or work-from-home scams in which you are offered a job but told that you need to pay for something like a training program or some other made-up fees. Here are 7 Ways To Spot A Fake Job Advertisement

There are investment scams including those involving foreign currency exchange and cryptocurrency because of the increase in interest in the two areas. There is the well-known Nigerian Prince Scam in which someone promises to send you a large sum of money because they are in a bit of a bind and all you need to do is send them your bank details and a little cash to get the whole process rolling.

Reasons why people end up being duped by different scams
  1. They are afraid of missing out on what they believe is a great opportunity.
  2. They are usually introduced to it by people they trust including friends and family.
  3. They are desperate to make money for example because of tough financial times.
  4. They are lonely. It turns out that people are more susceptible to scams when they are lonely.
  5. There are people who love the feeling that they are in on a secret that other people know nothing about making them easier to dupe.

Be wary of investment opportunities that guarantee extraordinarily high returns and that rely on you bringing in new people to earn money. Amazon Web Workers was not affiliated with Amazon the online store. The scammers capitalized on the trust accorded to Amazon the online retailer. Before risking your money, do your research especially as pertains to the ownership of the company. Trust your gut instinct. Extend some grace and understanding to people who have been scammed. It could happen to the best of us. Stay vigilant.

Here are all types of scammers and not all of them are online. Some of them call you saying they are from your bank or telco. Here are tips on 12 Red Flags You Should Watch Out For To Avoid Being Conned

Check out Pyramid Schemes Promise You Easy Money: A Checklist To See If You Are Being Conned By That Great Opportunity Also check out this video on how to spot a pyramid scheme.

Remember to stay vigilant and also educate your friends and family on these scams so that they don’t lose all their money in one of these scams.

Have you been conned? Share your story with us.

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